Brandon Allen, 1B, Diamondbacks, (Triple-A Reno)
Here’s a quick quiz: Who is the best position-playing prospect in the Arizona system? The answer is Allen, and when you take a further step back, it’s not even close. On yet another run in Reno (11-for-21 in last five games), Allen is now batting .348/.427/.697 in 34 games for the Aces since being acquired from the White Sox, while adding six stolen bases to prove that he’s not the lumbering slugger that his 240-pound frame might suggest. Combine what he’s doing with the production the D’backs have gotten from first base this year, and everything is lined up for him entering next spring with the job to lose.
Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (Low-A Bowling Green)
As we finalize the outcomes of the 2009 draft today, it’s a good time to note what last year’s top pick is doing, and the answer is, “Not a whole helluva lot,” according to one scout who recently saw him. Batting just .265/.320/.381 in 105 games, Beckham doesn’t even offer many hidden gems in his stat line, as he’s not walking much while striking out nearly once a game, and has stolen just nine bases in 17 attempts. Pro scouts are saying his tools grade out well, but they’re seemingly not as glowing about them as the amateur scouts were about him. He’s going to be tough to slot come off-season ranking time.
David Cooper, 1B, Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
Starting a guy in Double-A for his first full-season assignment is aggressive. Some elite-level guys can handle it, but even players like Buster Posey and Pedro Alvarez began the year at High-A. Cooper has struggled in the Eastern League for much of the year, but he seems to be getting some traction, going 13-for-30 with four doubles and a pair of home runs in his last seven games to help give him a .283/.341/.478 line since the All-Star break. He remains a doubles machine with a healthy walk rate, but he needs to keep mashing to get to the big leagues, as the bat is the only tool.
Clint Everts, RHP, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
This really is one of the feel-good stories of the year for me, and I’m surprised it’s not getting more attention. The fifth overall pick all the way back in 2002, when the franchise was still the Expos, Everts’ career was completely derailed by Tommy John surgery and other arm issues, but he never stopped working at it, and all of a sudden he’s on the cusp of getting called up the big leagues. Beginning the year at High-A Potomac for the fourth straight year, the 25-year-old reached Triple-A last week, had a pair of scoreless outings over the weekend, and he now has a 1.23 ERA in 36 games across three levels, with more than a strikeout per inning thanks to a curveball that remains a plus pitch. Root for him.
Tim Fedroff, OF, Indians (High-A Kinston)
On June 20th, in a 5-0 win over Lynchburg, Fedroff went 0-for-4. What’s notable about this is that it’s the last game that Fedroff failed to reach base, as he extended his streak to 35 games by going 6-for-12 over the weekend with four doubles and four walks. Now batting .500 (27-for-54) in August and .354/.447/.485 since the All-Star break, Fedroff’s patient approach and line-drive bat has scouts projecting him as a possible old-school leadoff man if he can improve in center field.
Ryan Flaherty, INF, Cubs (Low-A Peoria)
While Double-A is a bit of an aggressive push for a player’s full-season debut, for a guy like Flaherty, a supplemental first-round pick last year out of Vanderbilt, beginning the year at Low-A seemed a bit conservative, so his slow start to the year was cause for genuine concern. Happily, not only has he found his stroke, he’s also maintained his power; after hitting homers on Saturday and Sunday, he’s now hitting .301 since the All-Star break, and .267/.333/.467 overall. As a player with that kind of pop who can at least hold his own at three infield positions, he’s definitely still a prospect.
Ryan Kalish, CF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
I’m not going to lie here, Kalish has been one of ‘my guys’ since his brief but electrifying performance in the New York-Penn League two years ago. A wrist injury sapped him throughout 2008, but he clearly seems to be back this year, and has been one of the hottest hitters in the Eastern League lately. After hitting home runs on Friday and Sunday to continue his current run, he’s now batting .325/.398/.607 in his last 30 games, to go with seven bombs and five stolen bases in that time. With at least average tools across the board, on top of the ability to play center, he remains a pretty rare commodity.
David Lough, OF, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
An 11th-round pick in 2007 out of a small Pennsylvania college, Lough is one of the best athletes in the Royals’ system, and his .268/.329/.455 line at Low-A Burlington last year showed why the organization was so excited by his promise. Entering the year as a 23-year-old, Lough had to make another great leap forward, but he’s done exactly that, hitting .320/.370/.473 at High-A Wilmington and getting even better since moving up to the Texas League, as a 7-for-14 weekend with two home runs upped his Double-A line to an impressive .353/.396/.575 in 40 games. This is a breakout season by any measurement.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (at least by draft rights)
So, today is the day, and with less than 12 hours to go before the signing deadline, ten of the top 15 picks have yet to sign, and everyone is in panic mode. By everyone, I mean readers who have my e-mail address, IM handle, or follow me on Twitter. All of that said, the teams themselves aren’t panicking at all. Strasburg is certainly a unique case, but this really is business as usual, as the number of deadline day holdouts increases each year. Why? Because that’s who gets the money, not because they’re not going to sign. While things are looking like at least one top pick might not get a deal done, the fact that there are late negotiations does not mean that those talks aren’t going well.
Ryan Wheeler, 1B, Diamondbacks (Short-season Yakima)
A fifth-round pick this year out of Loyola Marymount, all Wheeler has ever done is hit, but an overall lack of toolsiness is what had him waiting until the 156th pick to get selected. A big athlete with plenty of power potential, Wheeler is more of a pure hitter than a slugger, and he adds outstanding plate discipline and an impressive feel for contact. While Brandon Allen hardly has anything to worry about just yet, after a trio of three-hit games over the weekend, Wheeler is now batting .342/.449/.523 in his first 53 games as a pro.